Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fascist behavior from the American Left

Very similar to Hitler's brownshirts

PROTESTS outside a Donald Trump rally in New Mexico turned violent Tuesday night as demonstrators threw burning T-shirts, plastic bottles and other items at police officers, overturned trash cans and knocked down barricades.

Police responded by firing pepper spray and smoke grenades into the crowd outside the Albuquerque Convention Center.

During the rally, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was interrupted repeatedly by protesters, who shouted, held up banners and resisted removal by security officers.

The banners included the messages “Trump is Fascist” and “We’ve heard enough.”

At one point, a female protester was physically dragged from the stands by security.

Other protesters scuffled with security as they resisted removal from the convention centre, which was packed with thousands of loud and cheering Trump supporters.

Trump responded with his usual bluster, instructing security to remove the protesters and mocking their actions by telling them to “Go home to mommy.”

He responded to one demonstrator by asking, “How old is this kid?”  Then he provided his own answer: “Still wearing diapers.”

Trump’s supporters responded with chants of “Build that wall!”

The altercations left glass at the entrance of the convention centre smashed.

During the rally, protesters outside overran barricades and clashed with police in riot gear.

They also burned T-shirts and other items labelled with Trump’s catchphrase, “Make America Great Again.”

Tuesday marked Trump’s first stop in New Mexico, the nation’s most Hispanic state.

Governor Susana Martinez, head of the Republican Governors Association and the nation’s only Latina governor, has harshly criticised his remarks on immigrants and has attacked his proposal to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. The governor did not attend the rally and has yet to make an endorsement.

Trump read off a series of negative statistics about the state, including an increase in the number of people on food stamps.

“We have to get your governor to get going. She’s got to do a better job, OK?” he said, adding: “Hey, maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going.”

The governor’s office fired back, saying Martinez has fought for welfare reform. “The potshots weren’t about policy, they were about politics,” said spokesman Michael Lonergan. “And the Governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans, and she did not hear that today.”

Trump supporters at the rally said they appreciated his stance on boosting border security and stemming the flow of people crossing the border illegally, but some said they were frightened by the violent protests outside.

Albuquerque lawyer Doug Antoon said rocks were flying through the convention centre windows as he was leaving Tuesday night. Glass was breaking and landing near his feet.

“This was not a protest, this was a riot. These are hate groups,” he said of the demonstrators.



The filmmakers hoping to take down Hillary Clinton

“DONALD Trump will win in a landslide,” producer of the explosive documentary Clinton Cash, Steven K Bannon, declares to  “It’s going to be a win of Reagan proportions.”

The controversial film, based on the best-selling book by Peter Schweizer, investigates how the Clintons managed to reconfigure their finances, from being “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001 to amassing in excess of $US150 million with $US2 billion in donations to their foundation in only a few years.

The film was recently screened at the Cannes Film Festival to an audience of journalists and theatre distributors glued to their seats.

“What I find shocking is that there’s this thought process that Hillary Clinton is going to be president of the United States, and to even think of Donald Trump is a joke,” Bannon says.

“Journalists think it’s inconceivable that she is not going to be president of the United States. Then they see the film and the first reaction you get is, ‘How come nobody knows this stuff? How come it’s not out in the popular press?’”

The film chronicles the years in which the Clintons and their foundation amassed money and where they got it from, including fees paid to Bill Clinton for speeches while his wife was secretary of state. This includes $US1.4 million he received for two speeches in Nigeria in 2011 and 2012, during the time the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, was under fire for his human rights record.

Peter Schweizer, author of the book of the same name, says: “The political leaders who enriched them and how they have been enriched affects the decisions they make. We should care who is putting money in the pockets of politicians. If you are a cabinet officer in the United States you should not have a foundation that is taking money from foreign governments and foreign entities. We need to have those reforms or this is going to become widespread.”

Bannon is the executive chairman of the politically conservative Breitbart news site and he’s honest about wanting to take the Clintons down.  “Trump is a product of a seething populism and nationalism that is the driving political force,” he says animatedly.

“We were the first guys to give Trump an interview three years ago in May of 2013. The mainstream just laughed at him but I’m a filmmaker and I watch the audience. They were leaning into what Trump said when he talked about making America great again, getting jobs back and stopping immigration.

“I don’t like to prognosticate but I was the very first guy three years ago that said Trump will be the Republican nominee and was mocked and ridiculed.”

Bannon is sipping his morning coffee on the sun-dappled patio of Cannes’ iconic Carlton Hotel, perched on the Mediterranean Sea where the likes of George Clooney, Blake Lively, Justin Timberlake and an endless array of models are milling about.

“George Clooney, who is a moron, came here to Cannes and gave a press conference saying, ‘Under no circumstances will Trump ever be president. Hillary Clinton will be the next president.’ Well, we can’t wait to make George Clooney eat his words. He has a false patina of intellectualism and this is what a hypocrite he is; he talks all this trash about money and politics and global warming but lives up in Italy at the villa [on Lake Como] and flies around in a jet,” he says.

Taking a decidedly no-holds-barred approach, Bannon says of the Clintons, “They are trailer trash. They are grifters.”

And on the age-old question, the subject of many a classic country music anthem, why did Hillary stand by her man? “Because she is possibly about to become the most powerful person in the world, and possibly the first female president of the most powerful nation in the history of the earth,” Bannon says.

Though the documentary is largely seen as a tool for the Republicans during this historic election year, Clinton Cash has also proved to be an aid for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

“It’s a great weapon for Sanders. The polling shows Hillary Clinton’s biggest weakness is not her competence as Secretary of State, as a senator or her stand on women’s issues, it’s that people don’t trust her,” he says, leaning in.

“Particularly when it comes to money. Sixty-five per cent think she’s dishonest, but Bernie hasn’t used that and I think one of the reasons is quite simple: these people roll very hard. The Clintons play smash mouth,” he says. “They will come at you.”



"Never Trump" does not own conservatism

"He's a mere celebrity whose ignorance will destroy the Republican Party and if, God forbid, elected president, he will start World War III"

But enough about what the Washington Establishment said about Ronald Reagan. That was 40 years ago when he challenged President Ford. Let's talk about now and how the Washington Establishment continues to brush Trump off as a mere celebrity whose ignorance will destroy the Republican Party and if, God forbid, elected president, he will start World War III.

My take is that if a person does not want to vote for Trump, fine. I respect that. If you want to leave the party as a matter of principle, I am OK with that.

However, the Never Trump crowd is another kettle of fish that need to be fried. If you write for the oldest conservative magazine in Washington (National Review) yes, you are are part of the Washington Establishment. That is how it works. If you are a Fox News contributor based in the nation's capital, you are are part of the Washington Establishment. Ditto the Weekly Standard. Ditto a host of think tankers. Stop pretending you are some sort of renegade. You live in the American Versailles. You are part of it.

There is nothing wrong with the Washington Establishment except a $19 trillion national debt, a string of wars, the rise of the Islamic State, the tanking of the economy, borders that are unprotected, and free trade agreements that have forced Wal-Mart to quit its "Buy American" policy.

For all their malarkey about the free market and capitalism, few in the Washington Establishment live in that world. They get huge salaries from tax-exempt corporations that survive on tax-exempt donations.

Their ignorance of how capitalism works showed this year. In the marketplace of ideas, they lost. For all their huffing and puffing, they could not  blow Trump down because his ideas trumped his personality. Got that? The only Cult Of Personality is that of Cruz who frankly is another empty suit, only he comes with a Bible.

His promise of running a constitutional government is laughable. We already do. Congress writes laws, the president carries them out, and the Court decides whether the laws pass constitutional muster. Yes, the Roberts Court upheld Obamacare, but it also struck down DC's gun law and McCain-Feingold. You may disagree with the Court but that does not make the rulings unconstitutional.

Nor does opposition to Trump make you more conservative than me.

Free trade?

Patrick Buchanan pointed out that from Lincoln to Coolidge (and of course, Hoover) Republicans and conservatives stood for protective tariffs.

From Buchanan:

During his presidency, Congress passed and Abe signed 10 tariff bills. Lincoln inaugurated the Republican Party tradition of economic nationalism.

Vermont’s Justin Morrill, who shepherded GOP tariff bills through Congress from 1860 to 1898, declared, “I am for ruling America, for the benefit, first, of Americans, and for the ‘rest of mankind’ afterwards.”

In 1890, Republicans enacted the McKinley Tariff that bore the name of that chairman of ways and means and future president.
“Open competition between high-paid American labor and poorly paid European labor,” warned Cong. William McKinley, “will either drive out of existence American industry or lower American wages.”

To paraphrase Archie Bunker, mister, we could use a man like Bill McKinley again. The economy thrived.

And the reality is that Reagan was less free trade than Trump is. Reagan slapped tariffs on Japan like it was nobody's business to protect Harley Davidson and others.

Trump is about reaching out. Never Trump is about crawling into a shell. So be it. But that is not a high road they are on.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why WWI?

The bloodshed and folly of WWI is still horrifying to this day.  It seems that the world went mad at that time. And it happened amid the world's most civilized nations.  ISIS are amateurs compared to the combatants of WWI.

One can detail the processes that led up to it -- and I have done that -- but in retrospect the forces at work do seem insufficient by themselves to explain a vast horror. So the thoughts below by an historian are very relevant.  I will add some further comments at the foot of them:

Jay Murray Winter is the Charles J. Stille Professor of History at Yale University, where he focuses his research on World War I and its impact on the 20th century.

Reflecting on the causes of the First World War, Jay Winter concludes his six-part video series, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century (1996), as follows:

"The war solved no problems. Its effects, both immediate and indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, economically destructive, socially degrading, confused in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding example in European history of meaningless conflict"

Summing up his conclusions more recently, he states:

"1938 is a long way from now, but it’s still a puzzle. What was it for? Why? Why all this bloodshed? Why the carnage? Why the violence? Why the cruelty? I can’t pretend to have an answer, but I know it’s a question that we still have to resolve"

After 50 years of research and writing, this great historian cannot tell us why the First World War occurred.

Yet the reason for the war is staring us in the face. The bloodshed contained its own meaning. One does not have to look beyond what it was. Observing the daily carnage in France in 1916, P. H. Pearse—founder of the Irish revolutionary movement—told us everything we need to know (in Kamenka, 1976):

"The last sixteenth months have been the most glorious in the history of Europe. Heroism has come back to the earth. It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefield. Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country"

The First World War occurred so that the earth could be “warmed with the red wine of the battlefield”. It was a form of “august homage” —millions of lives given “for love of country”.

The First World War was a gigantic demonstration of devotion—abject submission— to the nation-state. Societies from throughout the world offered up their young men upon the sacrificial block. They fed the hungry, humungous god, the nation which, like the god of the Aztecs, comes into being —continues to exist— to the extent that it feeds on the body and blood of sacrificial victims.


The above article, apparently written by psychohistorian Richard Koenigsberg, does take us  back rather vividly to the times concerned and does provide a deeper level of explanation for the events concerned.  All explanations open up further questions, however, so we have to ask WHY the bloodlust of that time?  WHY did people see war and sacrifice as glorious?

The answer lies rather clearly in history -- in particular the history that Leftists want us to to forget or never to be told.    There have always been Leftists -- people who are angry at the society in which they live -- but their doctrines have changed greatly over time.  And it so happens that both world wars happened in the "progressive" era -- a time from the late 19th century to the end of WWII -- in which "progressive" thought swept all before it.  Progressivism was culturally dominant.  The dominant thinking of that quite long period was progressive.  It was only the election of Ike in 1953 to the Presidency that called a partial halt to that dominance.

So if we want to understand the strange thinking that Koenigsberg has detailed above, we have to look at the Progressives and what they believed.  They had the basic Leftist inclination to tear down the status quo and upset existing systems that one expects of them -- and there is of course nothing so upsetting to existing life as a war.  Additionally, a war can be used to justify big power grabs that would not be countenanced by the population during peacetime.  And in WWI President Wilson did exactly that sort of grab.

So it was to satiate their desire for destruction and change that the Progressive doctrine included the ghastly thinking that Koenigsberg details.  And there was no-one so representastive of that thinking than Teddy Roosevelt and his battleships.  He too thought war was glorious and a purification of the human spirit.  Hitler thought that too but Roosevelt much preceded him.  Hitler did, after all, grow up in the Progressive era and got most of his ideas from them: racism, eugenics and the virtue of war.

Leftists of today say roughly the opposite of all those things but that is just a matter of convenience.  After the defeat of Hitler, his doctrines fell into disrepute so Leftists turned on a dime and pretended that his doctrines had never been theirs.  But they were.  So it was the bloodlust that Leftists have always exhibited -- from the French Revolution on -- that underlay the terrible deeds of WWI -- JR


Once again:  Obamacare REDUCES the availability of health care

Mountainous deductibles and now this

An Obama administration proposal to reduce Medicare payments for many prescription drugs has run into sharp bipartisan criticism, suggesting that it is easier to diagnose the problem of high prices than to treat it.

Patients’ advocates have joined doctors and drug companies in warning that the federal plan could jeopardize access to important medications. Every member of the Senate Finance Committee — 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats — and more than 300 House members have expressed concern.

In a letter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society said the proposal “does not protect cancer patients’ access to the lifesaving drugs needed to treat their disease.”

The plan “focuses more on the potential for cost savings” than on how to preserve and enhance the quality of care, it said.

The administration says Medicare’s current payment formula rewards doctors for prescribing expensive drugs. Burwell has proposed a five-year nationwide test to encourage doctors to prescribe less expensive therapies under Part B of Medicare.

In its proposal, the administration said “we intend to achieve savings” but did not estimate the amount.

The first phase of the new “payment model” could begin as early Aug. 1. In the second phase, which could start as soon as January 2017, Medicare would link payment to a drug’s value.

The government might, for example, pay more for drugs that it deemed more effective in treating or preventing a particular condition. Or it might pay the same amount for drugs that it judged to be “therapeutically similar.”

These drugs — to treat various types of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, and other conditions — are typically administered in doctors’ offices or hospital clinics. They include drug products that are made from human or animal cells, as well as treatments that mobilize the body’s immune system to fight cancer and other diseases.

Medicare typically pays 80 percent of the cost, and beneficiaries are responsible for the other 20 percent, meaning that they have to pay thousands of dollars a year for some drugs and drug combinations.

Whatever the merits of the proposal, the administration has to date been outmaneuvered on Capitol Hill. Republican lawmakers say President Obama should withdraw the proposal, a step that appears unlikely at the moment. Many Democrats, alarmed at high drug prices, said the administration was making a worthy effort but should not move ahead without doing more to protect beneficiaries.

Representative Lois Capps, a California Democrat and a nurse, said she was concerned about several aspects of the plan. She listed “the nationwide scope of the project, the possible impact on small medical practices in underserved areas, and the potential shifting of patients from provider offices to expensive hospital settings.”

Two dozen House Democrats, including black and Hispanic lawmakers representing large numbers of poor people, said the proposal could disrupt care for their constituents. Doctors practicing in small groups and rural health care providers have less purchasing power, often must pay higher prices for drugs, and will be unable to absorb the “reimbursement cuts,” the lawmakers said.

Another 60 House Democrats, including some of the most liberal members of Congress, signed a separate letter listing even more questions and concerns.

It is not surprising that drugmakers like Amgen, Genentech, and Merck have asked the administration to withdraw its proposal. But some of their concerns seem to resonate with patients desperate for new treatments and cures.

Bari Talente, executive vice president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said her group opposed the administration’s plan in its current form. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, an advocacy group for patients, said the proposal “could limit access to long-acting injectable antipsychotic medications” used to treat schizophrenia and other disorders.

In a letter to Medicare officials, Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, dean of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said, “This experiment puts the care of patients at unnecessary risk.”



More news from government healthcare: The British experience

Heartless NHS staff ate the food a wife brought into hospital for her cancer-stricken husband, she claims.

Jennifer Sanders, who is suing the hospital over its treatment of her late husband Freddie, also says staff took away his dignity by being rude and not washing him promptly during his 38 days there.

The retired florist said: ‘My Jack Russell dog Riley-Boy was recently treated at a veterinary hospital and he received better care than Freddie.

'I’ve often thought to myself if I put my Freddie in there, instead of that hospital, would he still be here now. His food was taken from a fridge when he was on that ward.

‘I’d bought him Marks & Spencer carrot cake, jelly terrine, vanilla custard, and some Cornish clotted cream and made him up a bowl, trying to encourage him to eat.

‘When I went to get it the following day there was nothing left, except an empty carrot cake wrapper at the bottom of the fridge, the cream and jelly had gone and there was just a tiny blob of custard left.’

Mrs Sanders, 69, added: ‘He was lying there like a bag of bones, he lost nearly eight kilograms over the period of a month from when he had been admitted, yet someone helped themselves.’

Mr Sanders, 66, already had prostate cancer and diabetes when he was admitted to Whipps Cross Hospital, East London, with a severe cough on Boxing Day 2013.

And his widow believes the former council worker was prescribed the wrong medication during his stay, contributing to his eventual death by being given laxatives even though he already had diarrhoea.

Mr Sanders eventually died in November 2014 and his family has now launched legal action against Whipps Cross Hospital.

Mrs Sanders, who now lives in Wickham Market, Suffolk, said: ‘How could a doctor walk past a man’s bed for 38 days when he was in such a state and not notice he shouldn’t have been prescribed a laxative.

'The care he received left me so distraught I considered giving him and myself an overdose of tablets, just so he didn’t have to endure it any more. ‘I love him and I’ve been his wife for 45 years yet I wanted to kill him out of compassion because of what happened there.

‘There were failings in his care – they let him lie crying, covered in his own mess – he lost his dignity and he deserved better than that.’

The case is one of 93 to be highlighted by the Health Service Ombudsman in its latest report into NHS failings.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The only living Trump supporter in Silicon Valley

The most interesting discovery of the week was not that IBM, Citigroup and Microsoft were unwittingly running ads on (and therefore providing funds to) an Indonesian jihadi website – though they were – but that Peter Thiel is supporting Donald Trump in his bid to become the next president of the United States.

“Peter who?” I hear you say. Mr Thiel is not exactly a household name in these parts, but in Silicon Valley he’s a big cheese, as a co-founder of PayPal and the first investor in Facebook. He is therefore rich beyond the dreams of avarice. But he is also: a philosophy graduate; a lawyer; a former bond trader; a hedge-fund manager; a venture capitalist; a philanthropist; a far-out libertarian; and an entertaining author. So what is a guy like that doing supporting Trump?

One answer might be that he’s as much of an irritant to the Silicon Valley crowd as Trump is to the Republican establishment. Although the Valley’s tech titans like to portray themselves as non-statist disruptors, in fact most of them are – politically speaking – Democratic party supporters, albeit of an unusual kind. They may detest trade unions, for example, but they’re very keen on immigration – so long as the immigrants have PhDs from elite Indian or Chinese universities. And they’re not opposed to big government, so long as it’s “smart”, whatever that means.

Peter Thiel doesn’t fit this template at all. In 2009, he published an intriguing essay entitled The Education  of a Libertarian. “I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years”, it began: “to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself ‘libertarian’.” But, he confessed, “over the last two decades, I have changed radically on the question of how to achieve these goals. Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”

So what changed his mind? Answer: the 2008 banking collapse, which Thiel describes as “a financial crisis caused by too much debt and leverage, facilitated by a government that insured against all sorts of moral hazards – and we know that the response to this crisis involves way more debt and leverage, and way more government. Those who have argued for free markets have been screaming into a hurricane. The events of recent months shatter any remaining hopes of politically minded libertarians. For those of us who are libertarian in 2009, our education culminates with the knowledge that the broader education of the body politic has become a fool’s errand.”

The emerging theme is that democratic politics is irretrievably broken. “In our time,” Thiel says, “the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms – from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes to the unthinking demos that guides so-called ‘social democracy’. The critical question then becomes one of means, of how to escape not via politics but beyond it.”

In 2009 Thiel could only see three possible escape routes. The first was cyberspace: “By starting a new internet business,” he wrote, “an entrepreneur may create a new world. The hope of the internet is that these new worlds will impact and force change on the existing social and political order.” The second was – wait for it – outer space: “Because the vast reaches of outer space represent a limitless frontier, they also represent a limitless possibility for escape from world politics.” And finally there was what Thiel called “seasteading” – floating islands in international waters run as libertarian paradises, presumably with free copies of Ayn Rand’s books on every bedside table.

Sadly, none of these ideas has – as yet – borne much fruit. The internet has been captured by governments and huge corporations. Colonising Mars and escaping to other galaxies is a proposition only for Hollywood and the Starship Enterprise. And seasteading, though technically less impracticable, remains the fantasy of dreamers and flakes of Cadbury proportions.

Faced with these cruel disappointments, what is a billionaire fantasist to do? Why, hitch his wagon to that of another billionaire fantasist, of course. And Trump and Thiel have more in common than perhaps they realise. In his 2009 essay, for example, Thiel wrote: “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women – two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians – have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” Trump is hoping to turn that oxymoron into a reality.



Pittsburgh Insurer Highmark Going to Court in desperate bid  to recover its Obamacare losses

Health insurers have not had much to cheer about lately, when it comes to Obamacare. They have been losing money on exchanges, and there is little hope that will change. So, a large health plan in Pittsburgh has asked judges to give it Obamacare money the Administration promised, but Congress declined to appropriate.

As reported by Wes Venteicher and Brian Bowling of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Highmark lost $260 million on Obamacare exchanges in 2014, and claims it is owed $223 million by taxpayers. Unfortunately, it received only about $27 million. And things are getting worse. To date, Highmark has lost $773 million on Obamacare exchanges.

It is not that Highmark has been singled out by anybody. On the contrary, the Administration announced last year it was only going to pay about 13 cents on the dollar for all insurers’ exchange losses, via Obamacare’s “risk corridors.” This was not the Administration’s preferred course of action. The Administration wanted to pay insurers one hundred cents on the dollar, which it had promised them.

However, it could only pay out monies it had collected from insurers which had profited more on exchanges than expected. Because both the Administration and most insurers badly miscalculated the risk in Obamacare’s exchanges, there were very few winning insurers, and the revenue a fraction of what was expected.

No problem: Taxpayers would cover the rest – or so the Administration and insurers initially claimed. I was among those analysts who recognized Congress needed to appropriate funds to cover the losses. And Congress was not inclined to do so. As a consequence of having dragged Obamacare over the legislative line in 2010, health insurers lost any sympathy from Republican politicians, who now control both chambers in Congress.

No industry which relies on government revenue, which health insurers increasingly do, can afford to be in that position for long. Government-dependent businesses go to great lengths to flatter politicians of both parties in pursuit of so-called bipartisan solutions. When they win, they win big. One recent example is the Medicare “doc fix” of April 2015, through which a broad coalition of health industry lobbyists managed to get near-unanimous Congressional consent for a budget-busting bill that significantly increases the federal government’s control of the practice of medicine.

Health insurance executives likely look back with some regret at their decision to go all-in on Obamacare in 2010 without any Republican support. Once the GOP took over the Congressional majority, its members attacked a number of suspect Obamacare cashflows that were being paid out to insurers, apparently in violation of the law. It was a remarkable development: Republican politicians who opposed the law were demanding it be executed as written, while the Administration and its insurer allies were demanding it be bent, folded, and mutilated to guarantee revenues to insurers in accord with their business plans.

Insurers had a small win last December, when they got a one year delay in a fee levied on employer-based policies, which funds Obamacare.  It can reasonably be expected that the fee will be kicked down the road again this December, and next December, et cetera, as Obamacare becomes just another unfunded liability.

However, insurers also suffered a major loss when a federal judge decided just a few days ago that the Administration was illegally paying insurers from another pot of Obamacare money, so-called cost-sharing reductions. These are subsidies to insurers which enroll Obamacare beneficiaries whose incomes are so low they cannot afford Obamacare’s high deductibles and co-pays, despite tax credits that reduce their premiums. Insurers receive subsidies to reduce these beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket payments.

However, Congress has not appropriated funds to pay out these subsidies, so the Administration cannot pay them, according to the DC Federal District Court. In the wake of this freshly issued judgment, Highmark’s decision to ask a judge to give it taxpayer dollars not appropriated by a Congress which seeks to repeal Obamacare is a real swing for the fences.

On the other hand, taxpayers can be relieved that only Highmark, one other insurer in Oregon, and the Iowa Insurance Commissioner (on behalf of a failed co-operative health plan) have decided to go for a judicial bailout. The rest of America’s health insurers are in the same boat, not having received as much taxpayer money as the Administration promised. Almost all of them have accepted that fact, and moved on from their failed attempts to wring more money out of Congress to prop up Obamacare.

Investors’ Note: UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH), Aetna (NYSE:AET), Anthem (NYSE:ANTM), are among the insurers affected by Congress’ declining to appropriate moneys to subsidize insurers via the Affordable Care Act.



Class war is making the deficit even worse

This article is about the British situation but the American situation is very similar

There are two very different ways to look at the world. The first is to obsess about inequality, including its psychological impact, and worry endlessly about the fact that some people are doing better than others. The second is to concentrate not on differences but absolutes, and to call for policies that ensure that as many people as possible can earn as much as possible.

For proponents of the first approach, reducing the number of rich people, and cutting their income, is an easy way to make progress. They want the gap between the worse-off and the better-off to shrink, and chopping down the tall poppies can achieve that very quickly. Advocates of the second approach would rather try to make sure that everybody, regardless of their income, can earn more, while helping those who cannot look after themselves.

The first group would prefer the rich to lose 5pc of their incomes even if the poor saw theirs stagnate, or in extremis fall slightly; my camp just wants everybody to have a pay rise, even if that means that the rich are getting richer more quickly. We worry hugely when the poor and middle classes don’t get pay rises, as has been the case at least in part in the US in recent years, but don’t see that as a reason to clobber those who are still enjoying rising wages.

This approach is not just better for the worse-off but also hugely superior for the public finances, as the latest figures on tax payments from HMRC demonstrate. A record 391,000 people earned more than £150,000 in salaries, wages, bonuses and dividends in 2015-16; 347,000 of these paid at least some tax at the 45p top rate (the remainder made use of legitimate tax reliefs). These additional rate taxpayers – approximately equivalent to the top 1pc of income earners – handed over an eye-watering £50.1bn in income tax to HMRC, a sum hugely disproportionate to their earnings as a result of the UK’s progressive tax system.

By contrast, millions of people paid no income tax at all, thanks to the Chancellor’s (sensible) policy of massively increasing the personal allowance. This is good news: it makes no sense to give those on low incomes benefits while simultaneously taxing them. It’s inefficient.

Roughly 19.4m people earned less than £30,000 but more than the personal allowance of £10,600; they paid £30.46bn in income tax. The total amount of income tax collected from the 24.6m basic rate income taxpayers came to £55bn, only just higher than the contribution from the 347,000 highest earners.

Compare that to the 16,000 taxpayers who earned at least £1m last year: they handed over £15.75bn to HMRC, around 40pc of their income. Those on high pay are incredibly useful to the taxman. The 5,000 who earn £2m or more hand over an average of £1.88m each per year in income tax alone.

The answer to the UK’s fiscal problems should therefore be clear: we need those on lower incomes to earn more; and we need a lot more rich people. Imagine if we were able to attract another 16,000 people on £1m or more: at a stroke, that would increase HMRC’s revenues by another £15.75bn, dramatically reducing the deficit. These people would employ staff, invest and boost the economy

in other ways, contributing further to the Exchequer. So why has the Government deliberately put in place policies to chase so many of these people away? Squeezing them may well have reduced the potential tax take from this group, rather than increasing it as planned.

Britain also needs better productivity to allow those stuck on low incomes to make more; and it needs even more upper middle-class jobs. The 4.6m people who earn enough to pay the 40p tax rate contributed £66.2bn in income tax, a massive chunk of the total. The more people earn, the more tax they pay, and the better the state of the public finances.

So forget about inequality. The real challenge is the lack of opportunity facing millions on the lower rungs of the labour market, the sluggish pay rises enjoyed by the middle and the fact that we no longer like hosting top-earners in this country. Simple, really.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, May 23, 2016

Trump's problem with women

Ann Coulter at her mocking best:

The New York Times' front-page article last Saturday on Donald J. Trump's dealings with women forced me into a weekend of self-examination. As much as I support Trump, this isn't a cult of personality. He's not Mao, Kim Jong-un or L. Ron Hubbard. We can like our candidates, but still acknowledge their flaws. No one's perfect.

I admit there are some things about Trump that give me pause. I'm sure these will come out eventually, so I'm just going to list them.

First -- and this is corroborated by five contemporaneous witnesses -- in 1978, Trump violently raped Juanita Broaddrick in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hotel room, then, as he was leaving, looked at her bloody lip and said, "Better put some ice on that" -- oh wait, I'm terribly sorry. Did I say Trump? I didn't mean Trump, I meant Bill Clinton.

Hang on -- here we go! Knowing full well about Bill Clinton's proclivity to sexually assault women, about three weeks after that rape, Trump cornered Broaddrick at a party and said, pointedly, "I just want you to know how much Bill and I appreciate the things you do for him. Do you understand? Everything you do."

No! My mistake! That wasn't Trump either. That was Hillary Clinton. ... But this next one I'm sure was Trump.

In the early 1990s, Trump invited a young female staffer to his hotel room at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, dropped his pants and said, "Kiss it" -- WAIT A SECOND!

I don't know how this keeps happening. That was Bill Clinton. Please bear with me -- it's late at night and my notes are jumbled.

As CEO of an organization, Trump had a female employee, just months out of her teens, perform oral sex on him while he made business calls. That girl's name was Monica Lewin-- No! Wrong again! That was Bill Clinton, too! Please don't stop reading. Let me find my Trump notes ...

What I meant was that Trump was the one who later smeared that girl as a delusional stalker. She may have volunteered for the sex -- at around age 20 -- but Monica Lewinsky didn't volunteer to be slandered! And yet this fiend, this user-of-women, this retrograde misogynist, Donald Trump, deployed his journalist friends, like Sidney Blumenthal, to spread rumors that Monica was a stalker, trying to blackmail the president.

Oh, boy -- this is embarrassing. This must seem very sloppy. That wasn't Trump either; it was Hillary Clinton.

There must be something here that was Trump ... Here! I have one.

When an attractive woman desperately in need of a job came to Trump's office in 1993, instead of helping, he lunged at her, kissed her on the mouth, grabbed her breast and put her hand on his genitals. He later told a mistress that the claim was absurd because the woman, Kathleen Willey, had such small breasts.

Uh-oh -- you're not going to believe this, but -- yep, that was Bill Clinton.

This one, I'm sure was Trump. In January 1992, Trump went on "60 Minutes" to slime nightclub singer Gennifer Flowers, knowing full well she was telling the truth. He implied she belonged in a loony bin, telling millions of viewers "every time she called, distraught ... she said sort of wacky things."

Dammit! I don't know how this keeps happening. That wasn't Trump! That was Hillary, smearing one of her husband's sexual conquests.

Let's just go back to the Times' story, based on months of investigation and interviews with hundreds of women. I'll give it to you straight: When Trump was at the New York Military Academy as a teenager, one person who knew him said -- and this is corroborated by two other witnesses: "Donald was extremely sensitive to whether or not the women he invited to campus were pretty."

I almost threw up reading that. I am physically ill.



Graduates face a big challenge

When they go into the Real World, college and high school grads will actually have to THINK

Paul Driessen

As they don caps and gowns, endure commencement speeches and take their diplomas, many high school and college graduates face bleak prospects in an economy that grew a dismal 0.5% the first quarter.

The United States added a meager 160,000 new non-farm jobs in April, a paltry 4,000 of them in manufacturing. First quarter 2016 averaged just 203,000 jobs per month. The labor force participation rate remains stuck at an abysmal 63% – meaning 93 million working age Americans are still unemployed.

Many who are working hold multiple jobs to make ends meet, while others are toiling at temporary, part-time or “gig” jobs, at lower pay, with few benefits and little job security.

They and the graduates may be hoping that Donald Trump will “Make America great again,” Hillary Clinton will “revitalize” our ailing economy, or Bernie Sanders will “invest” trillions of tax dollars to train and employ millions of young Americans in a 100% clean energy economy.

Like the candidates, they may be blaming our economic woes on China, climate change, Wall Street, the one percent, Mexico, inadequate supervision of greedy capitalist corporations, unpatriotic companies fleeing to foreign shores, or insufficient tax revenues to support essential government programs.

All are appealing excuses, but the real answer is much closer to home and involves multiple self-inflicted wounds. Most legislators and regulators are loath to admit any responsibility for our economic woes, and most graduates will find it hard to analyze the problem. However, the analytical process is essential.

The difficulty for students and graduates is that most were not taught how to think. Their teachers too often present mostly liberal-socialist ideology as unassailable fact, discourage or prohibit discussion and debate, and shelter sensitive snowflakes via speech codes, safe zones and bans on verbal microagression.

While raking in millions of taxpayer dollars for climate research, a cabal of RICO-20 university professors has gone even further. It has asked US and state attorneys general to launch racketeering prosecutions of anyone who disagrees with alarmist views on “dangerous manmade global warming.”

World-renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s admonition has been largely discarded in the halls of academia. “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered,” he said, “than answers that can’t be questioned.” Sadly, answers that none dare question now dominate classroom life.

And so, as you and graduates in your family or circle of friends leave those institutions of rote learning, and go into the Real World, you will have to undertake your greatest challenge: learning to think.

Examining, questioning, discussing and challenging hypotheses, assertions and accepted “facts” are always absolutely essential for scientific, technological and societal progress. In this election year, it behooves us all to demand details from candidates, honestly assess whether their proposals will improve or worsen our economic situation, insist on and participate in rigorous debates, and cast informed votes.

As you try to understand why our economy has been so anemic, why so few jobs are being created, and why one in three young American voters supports socialism as better than free enterprise – here are just a few realities to ponder.

God gave Moses Ten Commandments. The federal government has given us tens of thousands of commandments, enforced by millions of nameless, unelected bureaucrats who have nearly unfettered discretion to interpret and administer their rules. Complying with them costs American families and businesses $1.9 trillion per year. That’s more than the entire Russian economy, more than the IRS collected in corporate and personal taxes in 2015, and $15,000 in hidden costs for every family.

The Obama Administration has been publishing 80,000 pages of new regulations per year – and is preparing to unleash 3,000 more rules before it leaves office. Small businesses are hurt most, as they cannot possibly read, comprehend and comply with this regulatory tsunami. They thus live in fear that any unknown or inadvertent violation will result in massive fines or even jail time. Indeed, more than 4,500 federal rules carry criminal penalties, and lack of knowledge or intent is no defense.

Coupled with the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world, new hourly wage and overtime rules, and mountains of state and local regulations, these federal edicts dramatically impair hiring and growth.

This unintended job and economic destruction has shrunk middle class family incomes by more than $1,000 per year during the Obama era, sent 3 million more families into poverty, and added over 600,000 black Americans to the overall poverty number. The intentional damage is even more insidious.

The Obama EPA’s war on fossil fuels has contributed greatly to the loss of nearly 50,000 coal industry jobs since 2008. Mrs. Clinton has made it clear that she will “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” if she is elected. Like Senator Sanders, she also wants to eliminate most US oil and natural gas production – while ignoring the fact that fossil fuels still provide 82% of all US energy.

That would mean vastly more land-intensive, heavily subsidized wind, solar and biofuel substitutes. It would send electricity and motor fuel prices skyrocketing to levels now found in California and New York, or even in Britain and Germany: double, triple or quadruple what most Americans now pay.

For hospitals, factories, school districts and other major energy users, that would bring thousands to millions of dollars per year in higher costs – and thus countless more lost jobs and closed doors.

President Obama, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders, most Democrats and even some Republicans justify these self-inflicted wounds by saying they are necessary to prevent catastrophic global warming and climate change. But even if plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide is a primary culprit – and thousands of scientists say it is not – even shutting down all US fossil fuel use would bring no benefits, amid tremendous pain.

China alone accounts for 80% of the entire world’s increase in coal consumption so far this century. It now consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. The 155 new coal-fired power plants it is currently planning to build will burn twice as much coal as all of Germany’s existing plants do. Coal generates 67% of China’s electricity, oil and natural gas 23%, hydro 10%, and wind and solar combined only 2 percent. Nearly a billion Chinese still exist on less than $5 per day, and the Middle Kingdom will be burning fossil fuels for decades to improve their living standards.

India, Indonesia, the rest of Asia, all of Africa and much of Latin America are in the same situation. All are burning coal, oil and natural gas to lift billions out of abject poverty – and will continue doing so.

America’s political classes always protect themselves. It is poor, minority, middle-class and blue-collar families that will suffer – along with most of you graduates – from these all pain/no gain climate policies.

Politicians always like to show they care, by giving other people’s money to worthy causes, their favorite voting blocs and their campaign contributors. They are far less charitable with their own money. Joe and Jill Biden raked in $333,182 in 2009 – and gave just $4,820 to charity; during the previous decade, they averaged $369 annually. Between 2007 and 2014, the Clintons “earned” $139 million; they gave $14,959,450 to charity – but 98.7% of that went to the scandal-ridden Clinton Family Foundation.

Socialist and anti-energy policies boil down to strangling jobs and wealth creation … making the economic pie smaller and smaller … taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to “less fortunate” people who aren’t working but will likely vote for politicians who promise them “free stuff” … and ensuring “more equitable sharing” of ever greater scarcity, poverty and misery (for non-ruling elites).

As to telling poor countries to stop using fossil fuels, it is an unconscionable crime against humanity to impose policies that pretend to protect Earth’s poor, malnourished and energy-deprived masses from hypothetical climate chaos – by perpetuating poverty, malnutrition and disease that kill millions of them every year, right now.

Think about all of this as you take your diploma, evaluate candidates, and head to the polls.

Via email

For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Shameless New York Times Slimes Trump

The New York Times proclaimed the results of its six-week "investigation" of Donald Trump's behavior with women on the front page of the Sunday paper. It discovered that Trump is kind of sleazy around women. The Times wants us to know this right now — as opposed to six months ago — when it's clear he will be the Republican nominee running against Hillary Clinton.

No Republican is surprised. The New York Times' shameless partisanship knows no bounds.

When Juanita Broaddrick accused President Bill Clinton of sexual assault in February 1999, the Times was not impressed. It never found her story worth publicizing. Times reporters were first told about Broaddrick's allegation near the end of the 1992 presidential campaign, but they regarded it as partisan "toxic waste."

After former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey accused Clinton of sexually harassing her in the Oval Office, columnist Frank Rich criticized her in a column titled "The Liars' Club."

This is the paper where feminist columnist Anna Quindlen dismissed Paula Jones' sexual harassment case compared to Anita Hill's. She said there was "no reason to let right-wing activists, no friends to either the President, women, or the issue of sexual harassment, shame us into foolish lock step."

This is the paper that published columns written by Hill and journalist Gloria Steinem during the Lewinsky scandal, in which they shredded feminism in defense of President Clinton.

As for toxic waste, this is the paper that proudly put columnist Maureen Dowd on the front page on April 7, 1991, as she slimed President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan when discussing biographer Kitty Kelley's uber-sleazy and uber-unsubstantiated tabloid tales. "The new biography also offers sensational claims that the Reagans practiced a morality very different from what they preached. ...that both the Reagans had extramarital affairs, and that Mrs. Reagan had a long-term affair with Frank Sinatra."

Proof? Who needs proof? The fact that Bantam Books was able to publish Kelley's book without being sued was all the proof this rag required.

Now Trump is being accused of behavior much less severe than that of Clinton with Jones, or Willey or Broaddrick. Keep all the Clinton-defending in mind.

On May 14, Times reporters Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey sneered in print: "Donald Trump and women: The words evoke a familiar cascade of casual insults, hurled from the safe distance of a Twitter account, a radio show or a campaign podium. This is the public treatment of some women by Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president: degrading, impersonal, performed."

They began with an account from model Rowanne Brewer Lane, where she described how Trump asked her to put on a swimsuit at a Mar-a-Lago party in 1990. Barbaro and Twohey reacted: "But the 1990 episode at Mar-a-Lago that Ms. Brewer Lane described was different: a debasing face-to-face encounter between Mr. Trump and a young woman he hardly knew. This is the private treatment of some women by Mr. Trump, the up-close and more intimate encounters."

The story quickly blew up in their faces. Brewer Lane appeared on Fox News and CNN, trashing the Times' account as a manipulation of her words. She told them Trump was a gentleman (not "debasing") and that she had told the Times she didn't want her story to be a hit piece. CNN told the Times reporters, "Rowanne has asked for an apology. What do you say?" Barbaro refused to give any ground: "I think we really stand by our story. We believe we quoted her fairly and accurately, and that the story really speaks for itself."

Yes, it does.

It's safe to say that Trump is no one's idea of Mr. Manners. His rudeness toward women was summarized by Fox's Megyn Kelly at the first GOP debate. And the way Trump treated her afterward underlined it. But The New York Times now has no right whatsoever to pass judgment on presidential candidates and their treatment of women.



The mole-hill hunters


More regulation vandalism

Many businesses operate under very thin profit margins.  So  this typically dumb Leftist attempt to force them to pay their workers more must have bad consequences.  It's most likely effect is to increase unemployment as businesses can no longer make ends meet and thus have to close

The government’s new rules requiring overtime pay for millions of workers have small business owners facing some hard choices.

The regulations being issued by the Labor Department Wednesday would double to $913 a week from $455 the threshold under which salaried workers must be paid overtime. In terms of annual pay, the threshold rises to $47,476 from $23,660. The rules take effect Dec. 1.

Many businesses like restaurants, retailers, landscapers and moving companies will have to transition staffers, many of whom are low-level managers, to hourly pay and limit the number of hours these employees work. That can increase the workload for other staffers, have everyone scrambling to get work done in fewer hours and hurt morale. Some owners say they’ll have to limit hiring, cut services or other costs. Others are turning to technology to try to get work done in less time. And some say they’ll give staffers a raise to get them out of overtime territory.

The new rules, which will be revised every three years, aim to increase pay for an estimated 4.2 million workers, including many who work 45, 50 or more hours in a week without extra pay. Businesses have been on notice about higher overtime costs since last summer, when the government issued proposed regulations. Companies are on the hook not just for time and a-half, but also for higher Social Security and Medicare taxes employers must pay on all of a staffer’s compensation. The rules don’t cover many employees who are office workers, computer programmers or professionals.

Small businesses lack the large revenue streams and credit lines of bigger companies, so they may struggle to afford the additional overtime costs, particularly those already facing higher minimum wages or increased health care costs.

Some owners will decide that it makes sense to give staffers whose pay is close to the $47,476 threshold a raise rather than face an uncertain overtime bill going forward, says Jonathan Sigel, a labor attorney with the law firm Mirick O’Connell in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Money isn’t the only issue. Managers used to staying at work until a task is done may feel demoralized when forced to leave work unfinished, says Midge Seltzer, president of Engage PEO, a human resources provider based in Hollywood, Florida.

“Most of the workplace consists of conscientious employees. It’s going to be difficult for them to just throw their hands up and say, ‘I’m done,’” she says.

Whether staffers will earn more or less under the regulations depends on the hourly wage each company sets. Many companies who expect to pay more are already looking at their budgets for other expenses that can be reduced or eliminated.


Getting Back to First Principles

Americans still enjoy freedom of religion. But these days, they’re expected to leave their faith in the pew or at home – not allow it to influence their behavior in the public square.

The founding fathers didn’t take that view. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” George Washington said. “In vain would that man claim tribute to patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.”

Yet many do, in fact, work very actively to undermine these pillars. That’s why I was honored to join the Ethics and Public Policy Center recently at its 40th anniversary event. EPPC’s motto is “defending American ideals since 1976.” But what really makes its contributions so invaluable is that it’s defending ideals that date back two centuries before that.

“We take great pride in the fact that people with differing viewpoints can come to the table and be a part of a larger conversation about these very important and very urgent issues,” according to EPPC Vice President Michael Cromartie. At a time when those who take their faith seriously can feel highly marginalized, EPPC is a necessary advocate.

I’m not just talking about cultural issues, where the role of faith seems more obvious. I’m referring to the whole gamut of issues. As EPPC President Ed Whelan has noted, the Center was founded at the height of the Cold War “to counter the myth of moral equivalence” between the East and the West.

Beyond the missile counts and competing proxy battles in far-flung hotspots lay the oft-overlooked fact that the Soviet Union was based on a godless, morally bankrupt system. The intellectual contributions of EPPC helped Cold War generals such as Ronald Reagan break through the malaise of d├ętente, and achieve what EPPC Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel calls “the successful endgame of the Cold War – the victory of freedom over Communism.”

Besides foreign policy, there is a wide range of other important issues to be addressed – and EPPC scholars are there. From stem-cell research and Medicare spending to judicial activism and entitlement reform, they provide legislative testimony, hard-hitting op-eds, and timely reports that flout the superficial analysis so common in our sound-bite culture.

And all from an organization that employs fewer than two dozen people. No wonder Weekly Standard co-founder Fred Barnes has said the Center “punches above its weight.”

The goal, as House Speaker Paul Ryan said in his keynote speech at the EPPC event, is to take what we’ve learned from the great thinkers of the past and apply it to the moment. To the issues at hand. We shouldn’t simply react – we should be making informed decisions that adhere to a clearly defined standard.

Because as much as we’re involved in policy-related, day-to-day issues, we always need to go back to first principles. The team at the EPPC – which includes James Capretta, Mona Charen, Pete Wehner, Stanley Kurtz and so many others – is absolutely central to what is really involved in leading the conservative movement. They put the daily news cycle into a larger context.

Perhaps more importantly, they highlight the need for civil society. You’d never know it from the shouting heads on the cable-news stations and on the op-ed pages, but not everything has to be about politics. EPPC knows that.

President Reagan once honored EPPC “for its singular contribution in clarifying and reinforcing the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the momentous problems that confront the United States.” Here’s hoping its next 40 years is even more productive.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Friday, May 20, 2016

Some Sanders fans would rather back Trump than Clinton

Hillary Clinton has tagged Donald Trump as “divisive” and “unpredictable.” But those words could just as easily describe the state of the Democratic race these days.

A Nevada state party convention in Las Vegas Saturday devolved into chair-throwing, shouting, and death threats lobbed at a top party official. The Nevada Democratic Party hit back with accusations that disruptive Bernie Sanders supporters have a penchant for “actual violence” and blamed the Sanders campaign for letting the event get out of hand. On Twitter and other social media sites, vitriol from supporters on both sides ratcheted higher, and many Sanders backers say they will shun Clinton come November.

Every presidential primary creates divisions, but the hostility among Democrats in 2016 sounds like combatants digging in for battle rather than contemplating how to join forces to defeat their common enemy.

Sanders forces are increasingly bitter that the Vermont senator is still winning races but can’t catch up to Clinton, who has an advantage among party leaders and “superdelegates.” Clinton backers, meanwhile, are growing impatient with Sanders’ insistence on staying in the race despite the long odds against him. The conflict has some Democratic insiders worried that their party won’t be able to unite behind Clinton.

Sanders supporters are embracing social media hashtags such as #BernieOrBust and #DropOutHillary. Many say they will write in Sanders on their ballots in November, vote for a third-party candidate, or abstain from voting altogether. Trump gleefully is stoking the anger, repeatedly saying that Sanders is getting a raw deal from a “rigged” Democratic nominating process.

Counting only pledged delegates, Bernie Sanders needs about 105 percent of the remaining delegates for the nomination.

At least some Sanders backers say they’d prefer the former reality TV star to the former secretary of state.

“I definitely will vote for Trump,” said George Massey, a Sanders supporter from New Brunswick, N.J. “I get that Trump is a blowhard, I understand that he just says whatever comes to mind that day, and you can’t believe everything that he says. But Hillary has proven that she can’t be trusted. Trump is a roll of the dice. I would prefer to roll the dice.”

“It saddens me. It really, deeply saddens me,” said Patty Maher of Ypsilanti, Mich., a lifelong Democrat from a family of lifelong Democrats who has always voted for her party’s nominee. But this year, if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Maher will write in Sanders’ name. “I’m just done with the Clintons completely.”

The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway is that, in the end, the 2016 race will play out like the one in 2008. That contest, too, was a bitter, bruising primary fight, and Clinton stayed in until the very end. So-called “PUMAs” — for “party unity, my ass” — vowed they’d never vote for her rival Barack Obama. But in the end, the New York Democrat encouraged her followers to back Obama – and for the most part, they did.

But there are signs that the rift that’s developed in this topsy-turvy campaign may be deeper than 2008. A March Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed one-third of Sanders voters couldn’t see themselves getting behind Clinton. Exit polls from the West Virginia primary earlier this month indicated close to half of Sanders supporters in that state would vote for Trump in a general election matchup with Clinton.

Diehard Sanders supporters are drawing up plans to mobilize in the streets of Philadelphia, where Democrats will hold their nominating convention this summer. Currently, five of the nine groups that have filed for protest permits during the convention are pro-Sanders organizations, according to city records sent to the Globe, carrying titles such as “March on the DNC 2016” and “March for Bernie.”

“The only way that Sanders supporters are going to get in line is with the active encouragement of Senator Sanders and his top staff, and to date I haven’t seen that,” said Jim Manley, a consultant and former spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the state’s most powerful politician and Senate minority leader.

Sanders did little Tuesday to comfort party leaders looking for an easy turn toward unity. His response to the Nevada brouhaha carried a defiant tone. He critiqued the Democratic establishment broadly and the Nevada state party’s handling of the convention more specifically. “The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change . . . or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions, and be a party with limited participation and limited energy,” Sanders said.

Turning to the criticisms directed at his campaign, including claims by the Nevada Democratic Party that Sanders supporters have a penchant for violence, Sanders retorted: “That is nonsense,” adding that “[i]t goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals.”

In interviews, Sanders supporters listed several reasons why they can’t bring themselves to get behind Clinton: her past support of trade deals they feel have decimated the working and middle class, her hawkish foreign policy positions, her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, and the hundreds of millions in corporate money she has taken as a candidate.

Many Democrats remain hopeful that the healing will begin as soon as Sanders bows out of the race. Sanders has said he will support Clinton if she is the nominee.

”People right now, they’re very intense and passionate about their commitments. Once the dust settles a bit, they’re going to start thinking about Donald Trump as president, and I think that’s going to be a very powerful push toward voting for Hillary,” said Col Owens, a Democratic Party official in Kenton County, Ky., and a Clinton supporter.

These optimistic Democrats also point to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is widely expected to endorse Clinton as soon as Sanders concedes. She would play a pivotal role shepherding Sanders voters, who share her progressive views, to the Clinton fold.

And the cold hard math of the matter is Clinton has won more states — clocking victories in 23 to the 19 Sanders has won before Tuesday’s votes. Overall, Clinton has earned more than 12.5 million votes versus less than 9.5 million for Sanders, according to a tally by Real Clear Politics. Some polling supports the Democratic talking point that Trump will help unite Democrats as well: A CNN poll earlier this month found that Sanders supporters favored Clinton over Trump 86-to-10.

“I’ve been saying for awhile that Bernie is the first presidential candidate that I actually felt wasn’t the lesser of two evils since I’ve been voting,” said Patrick Flanary of Louisville, Ky., who voted for Sanders in Tuesday’s primary. “Nonetheless, I do feel that if in a general election it’s Trump versus Hillary, I will definitely vote for Hillary because I think Trump doesn’t stand for anything I stand for.”



Trump Takes on Wacky Warren

Liberals everywhere are totally freaked out about Donald Trump's presidential nomination. Since liberals first instinct is to find an authority figure to explain it all to them, they've sought out nutty Senator Elizabeth Warren. who's taken to bashing Donald Trump. Trump, an avid user of social media, is probably as sick and tired of seeing Elizabeth Warren on his Facebook feed as the rest of us, so this week he fired back:

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is not reining in his attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). When New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked Trump if “he had been chided by any Republicans” for his Twitter war with the Democratic senator, the presumptive nominee said, “You mean Pocahontas?” Trump earlier this week fired off insults on Twitter, calling the senator “Goofy Elizabeth Warren.”

In March, Trump attacked Warren for saying she was part Native American while a professor at Harvard.

“You mean the Indian?” Trump said then when asked about Warren.
Trump's response is indicative of a new way of doing things on the right. For better or worse, he's not interested in winning rigged policy fights with people who, for decades, accused Republicans of things like 1) throwing grandparents out in the cold 2) hating the poor, and 3) wanting children to starve. In the past, Republicans offered the sort of tepid, lukewarm responses that lent credibility to those notions. In writing Warren off as "Pocahontas," Trump is treating her ideology with the total lack of respect it deserves.



Trump's Secret? Religion

The relationship between crowd and leader  tells us a lot about the charisma of the leader, which is reflected in the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the way that enthusiasm is—or isn’t—expressed by the crowd. The dynamic give-and-take between charismatic leader and enthusiastic crowd had its first modern incarnation in the city of Fiume (now Rijeka) on the Adriatic coast after the First World War.  The city was taken over by a ragtag army following Italy’s greatest war hero, the decadent poet-warrior Gabriele D’Annunzio. I wrote a book about the 18 months when Fiume held out against pretty much the rest of the world.  D’Annunzio’s exchanges with the crowd were clearly based on Catholic rituals, reminding us that political ritual owes a lot to religion.  That remains true today.

I think Rush is right when he tells his listeners that Trump’s popularity has little to do with political issues. Yes, immigration is an important theme, but the main thing about Trump is himself.  He excites a lot of people, there’s a sort of magic at work at his rallies, and his followers are wild about him.  He’s the only candidate who is really charismatic; nobody goes to a Hillary or Bernie rally because they expect to be thrilled and inspired.

Which leaves me with two strong convictions about this election.

First, Trump’s incoherence on issue after issue matters less than it would for the others.  His crowd wants him, not necessarily his platform.  They want the anti-pol.  His chances of success depend on his ability to retain the magic he’s shown to date.

Second, although I’m talking about an intensely emotional and in many ways irrational phenomenon, it is driven by real and very rational contempt for the current ruling class.

Yes it’s funny that a man who doesn’t much care about religion is in large part a religious leader, but it’s quite a common historical phenomenon.  And sometimes such leaders are triumphant.



How Wendy's is Handling the Raise in the Minimum Wage

Fast-food workers have engaged in the #FightFor15 for quite a while now, but one chain has a different way of ensuring that labor costs remain low without having to raise the cost of a product. Wendy's plans on installing self-service kiosks at over 6,000 locations to replace cashiers. This is in response to laws mandating higher wages.

Wendy’s (WEN) said that self-service ordering kiosks will be made available across its 6,000-plus restaurants in the second half of the year as minimum wage hikes and a tight labor market push up wages.

It will be up to franchisees whether to deploy the labor-saving technology, but Wendy’s President Todd Penegor did note that some franchise locations have been raising prices to offset wage hikes.

McDonald’s (MCD) has been testing self-service kiosks. But Wendy’s, which has been vocal about embracing labor-saving technology, is launching the biggest potential expansion.

Wendy’s Penegor said company-operated stores, only about 10% of the total, are seeing wage inflation of 5% to 6%, driven both by the minimum wage and some by the need to offer a competitive wage “to access good labor.”

Yikes. Kiosks, of course, do the job of a human at the cost of $0 per hour.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The poor have more heart attacks

That the poverty is a strong correlate of worse health tends to be ignored in the medical literature so a strong study pointing it out is worth noting. It is more support for the idea that there is a general syndrome of biological fitness

Geographic Variation in Trends and Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Hospitalization and Mortality by Income Levels, 1999-2013

Erica S. Spatz et al.


Importance:  During the past decade, the incidence and mortality associated with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in the United States have decreased substantially. However, it is unknown whether these improvements were consistent across communities of different economic status and geographic regions since efforts to improve cardiovascular disease prevention and management may have had variable impact.

Objective:  To determine whether trends in US county-level, risk-standardized AMI hospitalization and mortality rates varied by county-based median income level.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  In this observational study, county-level risk-standardized (age, sex, and race) hospitalization and 1-year mortality rates for AMI from January 1, 1999, to December 31, 2013, were measured for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years or older. Data analysis was performed from June 2 through December 1, 2015. Counties were stratified by median income percentile using 1999 US Census Bureau data adjusted for inflation: low- (<25th average-="" high-="" or="" th-75th="">75th) income groups.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  The effect of income on the slope of AMI hospitalizations and mortality, measured as differences in the rate of change in AMI hospitalizations and mortality by county income and by the 4 US geographic regions, and a possible lag effect among low-income counties.

Results:  In the 15-year study period, AMI risk-standardized hospitalization and mortality rates decreased significantly for all 3 county income groups. Mean hospitalization rates were significantly higher among low-income counties compared with high-income counties in 1999 (1353 vs 1123 per 100 000 person-years, respectively) and in 2013 (853 vs 648 per 100 000 person-years, respectively). One-year mortality rates after hospitalization for AMI were similar across county income groups, decreasing from 1999 (31.5%, 31.4%, and 31.1%, for high-, average-, and low-income counties, respectively) to 2013 (26.2%, 26.1%, and 25.4%, respectively). Income was associated with county-level, risk-standardized AMI hospitalization rates but not mortality rates. Increasing 1 interquartile range of median county consumer price index–adjusted income ($12 000) was associated with a decline in 46 and 37 hospitalizations per 100 000 person-years for 1999 and 2013, respectively; interaction between income and time was 0.56. The rate of decline in AMI hospitalizations was similar for all county income groups; however, low-income counties lagged behind high-income counties by 4.3 (95% CI, 3.1-5.9) years. There were no significant differences in trends across geographic regions.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Hospitalization and mortality rates of AMI declined among counties of all income levels, although hospitalization rates among low-income counties lag behind those of the higher income groups. These findings lend support for a more targeted, community-based approach to AMI prevention.

JAMA Cardiol. Published online May 11, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2016.0382


Vermont college to close due to ‘crushing’ debt incurred by Bernie Sanders’s wife

If you want a sneak peak into what the U.S. economy would look like under a Bernie Sanders presidency, look no further than Vermont’s Burlington College. Sanders’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was president of the private liberal arts school from 2004 to 2011. She must’ve not been very good at her job, though, because the college announced Monday that it will close May 27 due to “the crushing weight of the debt” incurred under Ms. Sanders’s presidency:

At the end of 2010, Ms. Sanders took out $10 million in loans on behalf of Burlington College to purchase a 32-acre swathe of land from the Roman Catholic diocese, which put the land up for sale to help cover the costs of a $17 million sexual-abuse settlement.

As Heat Street reported last month, the college almost immediately fell short on its financial obligations as fundraising pledges and commitments Ms. Sanders cited in the loan agreements never materialized.

Less than a year after leading Burlington College into massive debt, Ms. Sanders resigned, taking with her a $200,000 severance package. By 2014, because of its shaky finances and running deficits, Burlington College found itself placed on probation for two years by the regional accreditation agency.

A Burlington College news release issued this morning called these financial hurdles “insurmountable at this time.”

And if displacing hundreds of college students (the very demographic for which Bernie has claimed to be a champion) and shuttering an institution of higher education isn’t enough, Catholics in Vermont want to investigate Ms. Sanders for fraud:

Catholic parishioners in Vermont have called for an investigation into whether Ms. Sanders committed federal bank fraud by deliberately misrepresenting the amount that the college had secured in fundraising pledges as she sought financing for the land purchase.

As Ms. Sanders pursued financing for the land acquisition, she repeatedly said that Burlington College had received more than $2 million in fundraising commitments and pledges, according to numerous records.

But in fiscal year 2011, Burlington College raised only $279,000—though the college had earlier claimed to have secured $1.2 million in confirmed pledges.

Apparently Bernie isn’t the only Sanders who thinks other people’s money grows on trees.



Clueless Republicans Don't Realize It's the Democrats Who Have the Problem


I'm a bit perplexed with the continued resistance of so many of my right-wing brothers and sisters to Donald Trump. If it's just his brash style and vulgar taste, his preference for glittery gold over brushed nickel or flat black for his bathroom fixtures, I could understand it. I'm a flat black guy myself. But it's so much more than that.

The latest "betrayal" is that Trump admitted his tax plan was negotiable  Imagine that—a tax plan being negotiated between the administration and Congress! Never heard of that before.... oh, wait.

Never mind that the Trump plan, even negotiated, would be considerably lower than just about any on offer and well within the parameters of conventional GOP proposals.  (Now be honest—who would you rather have negotiating for you, Donald Trump or Paul Ryan? Who do you think would get a better result?) Nevertheless The Donald, in the opinion of the cognoscenti, once more has shown himself to be a feckless character not worthy of support—and the Republican gulf widens.

Or so we're supposed to believe, even though he has the nomination completely nailed down, signed, sealed and delivered, everything but set in bronze.

Meanwhile,  to almost everyone's surprise, the Democrats are still fighting, their internal enmity growing as Comrade Bernie wins primary after primary, sometimes by large majorities, and Lady Hillary clings to her super delegates like a three-year-old to a blanket. What happens if she loses California? According to West Virginia exit polls, a full third of Democratic primary voters are ready to defect to Trump. In the latest poll of swing states, Donald is already ahead of Clinton in Ohio and neck-and-neck in Florida and Pennsylvania. And the big show is just getting started.

It is the Democrats, not the Republicans, that have the problem, but you wouldn't know it if you watched, say, The Kelly File or had your Internet perpetually wired to National Review or The Weekly Standard, where the writing is as elegant as the thinking, these days, is often fuzzy. The Democrats are fighting a real war of ideas, disreputable though those ideas may be, while the Republicans fight a status war among themselves, a battle over control, not, except in the margins, over ideology.

Am I wrong? Remind me again where Trump, at least currently, is not a conservative? Taxes, check. Deficit, check. Immigration, check. Sanctuary cities, check. Strong defense, check.  Supreme Court, check. Veterans, check. Common core, check. Iran deal, check. Israel, check. Healthcare, check. Pro-life, check.... Oh, yes, Planned Parenthood.  He thinks the part of that operation that treats cervical cancer is okay. What a sin.

But...but...but... he has those whacky ideas on NATO and nuclear weapons and trade.

Are they so whacky? Other nations maybe should pay the part of NATO they contracted to. And the Japanese and South Koreans themselves have been talking about building nukes.  Wouldn't you after eight years of Obama? And then trade, who would doubt it could have been negotiated better, considering how our foreign policy deals have been negotiated?

And of course there's the matter of Muslim immigration. He wants that restricted for now. So do most Americans, according to polls. Again, this is the opening point of a negotiation. Who knows where it will end? But no one, other than the extreme left, would like to see the Syrian refugees pouring in. Trump will have the public on his side in preventing it.

As I said, the real problem is with the Democrats.  They are the ones in true disarray and are likely to remain so through their convention. This is a huge gift to the Republicans if they can only suck it up, shelve their egos, get together and take advantage of it. It doesn't matter whether you are a neocon, a social con, a libertarian, a financial con or just a plain con. Ideology is so last year. (Well not completely, but it doesn't have to be on the front burner all the time, does it?) Just do it.



More Leftist authoritarianism

Smokers in California from 18 to 20 years old have only three and a half weeks until the state’s new tobacco restrictions kick in. Come June 9—two days after the California primary election—tobacco consumption for the under 21 crowd will be verboten.

Young adults will still be able to make many life-or-death decisions, but they won’t be able to light up legally unless they are in the military. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all will abstain from indulging in tobacco: Many will have access to smokes and chew via the underground market that is sure to emerge. For evidence, observe how black markets arose in New York in response to the Empire State’s tax on cigarettes.

“New York’s experience is instructive,” write Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II and Strata Policy Analyst Josh T. Smith. “Largely because of the titanic tax that it places on cigarettes, almost 60 percent of the cigarettes sold in New York are smuggled into the state, according to the Tax Foundation.”

While experience with other prohibitions (and exorbitant tax hikes) offers strong reasons to oppose California’s new tobacco law, the moral case against it is even stronger. “It is absurd to claim that 18-year-olds are too young to buy a pack of cigarettes, but are mature enough to consent to sex, marry, or vote,” Shughart and Smith write. “It is a double standard that threatens the protection of all personal choices, even the ones still considered sacrosanct.... Lawmakers should let adults be adults and allow them to make their own decisions because they are worthy of our respect as equal, autonomous human beings.”



America's slide downhill?

For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)